Messiah

The Work of God 3

After commending Timothy to the Christians in Philippi, the apostle Paul then writes at length about another faithful work and friend - Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus also provides an example of kingdom-life in the Messiah. Paul writes the following about him: 

"I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of the Messiah, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me" (Philippians 2:25-30). 

Later in this letter, we discover that Epaphroditus had brought a gift of money and some news from the Philippian congregation to the apostle Paul. Paul explains, 

"I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18). 

Clearly, Epaphroditus' return to Philippi was greatly delayed, and the Philippians began to be concerned as to what might have happened to him. Regardless of what they may have begun to conclude about him, Paul wants to make it quite clear that sickness was the reason for his delay. It was not just that he go sick with something like the common cold, but he was so sick that he almost died. However, God compassionately kept him from death, so that the apostle would not have even more coals of pain heaped upon his heart. God's mercy and grace shine brightly in this passage!

Please note that even Paul's anxiety was not like some kill switch (v. 28), but it was something he had to work at in his own life (compare Philippians 4:6-7). It is also interesting that Paul starts by setting forth all of  the roles/characteristics of Epaphroditus, a man they all knew well. May we all follow his example in being willing to risk our lives for our fellow-workers and for the sake of the Messiah!

For His infinite worth,

Gantt 

The Work of God 2

Individuals who begin thinking and acting like the Messiah stand in stark contrast to the world in which they live. Following Jesus of Nazareth means thinking, talking, and behaving in ways that are quite different and often rare in any culture.

In the Philippian letter, Paul gives a poetic summary of the King's work on earth and ascension to the throne of glory (Philippians 2:5-11). He also sets forth some key application points regarding what it truly means to think and live like the Messiah Himself (Philippians 2:1-4). Possessing the mind of the Messiah will always lead to joining in the work of God (Philippians 2:12-18).

Paul then writes a lengthy section about two specific people: Timothy and Epaphroditus. At first glance, one might think that these two commendations are somewhat of a sidestep from the surrounding theological teaching, but a closer look shows that these words are quite connected to the theological content in the context. Timothy and Epaphroditus are both provided by the apostle as models for the Messianic lifestyle. 

Paul writes the following concerning Timothy:

"I hope in the Master Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy's proven worth, how as a son with a father he has been a slave alongside me in the good news. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, and I trust in the Master that shortly I myself will come also" (Philippians 2:19-24).

In these verses, Paul strongly commends Timothy, his spiritual child, to the church in Philippi. He is hoping to send Timothy to them so that he may learn further of their status and well-being (v. 19). His hope of sending Timothy is rooted in the Messiah and in His power/love.

But he tells them that he is waiting to see the outcome of his trial - whether he is released from prison, executed, etc (v. 23). It seems that Paul knows Timothy is eager to know what is going to happen to Paul and this way Timothy can bring the news of Paul's condition to the Philippians. Paul is confident that he will be released (at least for a time), and therefore, that he will soon follow Timothy in coming to them.

But notice that Paul singles out Timothy as someone who actually cares about the Philippian Christians (v. 20). Caring about the Philippians is made synonymous with being concerned about the matters of Jesus and His reign (v. 21). Seeking the interests of others (especially other children of God) is a fundamental part of seeking the interest of King Jesus (cf. Philippians 2:1-4). Timothy, like the apostle Paul, realized that the only thing that really matters is the Messiah and the good news about Him - that everything else is secondary to the King and His work (see also Philippians 3:4-11; and Matthew 6:24-34). What is the most important concern in our lives?    

Timothy had adequately demonstrated or proved his value to Paul and others in the past 9v. 22). Sons working with their father was very common in the ancient world - sons would usually become apprentices to their fathers. Such is the touching way Paul describes Timothy - regardless of the consequences, he was willing to loyally obey (as a slave of God) God right beside his father in the faith. Is that the way we see ourselves as a part of the body of Jesus? That we are all working as fellow-slaves together for the glory of God and the edification of God's people? May we all work together to that end! 

For His infinite worth,

Gantt 

The Work of God

Are you working today? Is God working in you and through your life? How seriously do you take your Christianity? Are you a complainer about the problems you are facing, or a grumbler about the commands of Deity? Are you shining like a light in the middle of a dark room? All of these and more are questions we need to be asking ourselves as we read the following section from the inspired pen of the apostle to the Gentiles: 

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of the Messiah I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me" (Philippians 2:12-18). 

This portion of Holy Writ (vs 12-18) starts off with another "therefore", and we would do well to ask, "What is it there for?" Paul is informing the Philippian Christians that they are to continue learning what it truly means to live as a people who know the Messiah and are in the process of possessing His mindset or attitude (see Philippians 2:5-11). Properly viewing the Messiah teaches us to be selfless toward others (Philippians 2:1-4), but now we see that it also shows us how to live in a much broader fashion - in a way that applies to every part of who we are to be as humans on this planet.

When Paul instructs them to "work out" their salvation, he is is not talking about earning anything or adding good behavior to their lives to balance out the bad... His exhortation refers to the outworking of our salvation as we learn what is means to be a part of this united family in the Messiah. Salvation is when the grace of God works in us and through us to accomplish His holy and loving will. An explanation of what Paul means is found in verse 13 - he makes it clear that God supplies the will and energy to carry out this working of salvation. Note: All of this is to the great pleasure of Deity. "I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus the Messiah" (Philippians 1:6).  

We are to engage in this work of obedience to God with a thorough seriousness, or "with fear and trembling." I submit that this phrase is not about being afraid of God (see 1 John 4:17-18), but that is it actually about being afraid of ourselves. We are to be ever mindful of our own weaknesses and to keep a careful watch over the way we're living our lives before God and others. "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12; see also 2 Corinthians 13:5). One man translated the phrase as, "and naturally you'll be taking this with utter seriousness." 

Paul then writes, "do everything without grumbling or disputing." Everything? Did he really mean everything? Absolutely. We may be working for the Messiah (v. 12), but how many of us are doing so without any complaints?

For His infinite worth,

Gantt 

Remembering the Reign

There is a lot of turmoil and confusion in our world today. One does not have to look very far to see battle lines being drawn and emotions running high in the world of politics /culture. From the upcoming presidential election to the issues regarding public bathrooms, there are a lot of a heated discussions and impactful actions occurring. It can be easy to get caught up in such, and it is fairly easy to begin to be either pessimistic and downtrodden or angry and confused....or possibly some combination thereof.

As followers of the Messiah, we are to live in this current world, but not to be of this world. Let us keep ever in our hearts that the kingdom we have joined is not “of this current world” (see John 18:33-38; Matthew 6:10; etc.). Knowing the nature of the reign of God should instill confidence, contentment, and courage in our hearts...if we belong to Him.

“Be subject for the Master's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor (president) as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as slaves of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor (president)” (1 Peter 2:13-17; compare with Romans 13:1-7).

It should to be clear that we are to honor and submit to our governing authorities...whether we personally agree with their decisions (or like them) or not. But if submitting to a civil authority ever conflicts with Divine commands, then we also know how we ought to respond: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29; see also 4:18-20).

Some more important reminders/observations:

Spiritual liberty is far more important than civil liberty (liberties). I am unaware of any passage of Holy Writ discussing the merits of civil liberties. It is righteousness that exalts a nation (read that somewhere in an old book with lots of wisdom)...not political function, structure, or liberty. As odd as it may seem to some, a lack of civil liberty actually breeds commitment among God's holy ones. History (both inspired and non-inspired) abundantly testifies to the way persecution fans the flames of spiritual and numerical growth within the body of the Messiah. Read Acts 4:1-4; 5:41-6:1, 7.

Individual repentance brings a nation back from ruin, not leaders or voting booths. Hearts changed by the good news leads to changed lives – all of which then leads to a changed people. The good news of the King is the Divine power to save and make people right before God (Romans 1:16-17). We will never truly change any nation by our vote (or any kind of political effort)...the only way to truly change a nation is to live within and to proclaim the rescuing reign of Deity.

If Jesus is to truly be our Master, then He must be the Master of every arena of our lives – including the workplace, the grocery store, and the voting booth. May the Messiah be the Master of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  

End of the day truth: Jesus is King of kings...let us strive to be His loyal subjects! May we never be ashamed of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah, for it is the Divine power for deliverance to everyone who believes.    

For His infinite worth,

Gantt     

The Mind of the Messiah 2

We looked a few weeks ago at how Paul describes the work of the Messiah to the Philippian Christians with a type of poem. He encourages them (and us) to possess the mind or attitude of the Messiah as we interact with one another and with non-Christians. To have the mind of our Master requires a major overhaul of our thinking pattern(s), and it is far from a comfortable endeavor to engage oneself in. Are we willing to make that transformation on our own hearts and lives?

Paul kindly exhorts,

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:1-8).  

Now consider the rest of this amazing passage of Sacred Scripture:

“Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus, Messiah, is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Why did Paul begin with a “therefore”? He is saying that this exalted position and exalted name is because of what is set forth in the previous lines of the passage. The incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth is the perfect manifestation of the true and living God. Only God could have done what Jesus did upon this Earth. Therefore, He is to be honored in a way that is far beyond any other...

For the Jew, the “name” Yahweh would have been the highest name one could imagine, and yet Paul says that Jesus' name is the highest one. The words of Paul here remind us of something we read in the Old Covenant Writings: “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance” (Isaiah 45:23b). Paul makes it clear that Jesus does not negate monotheism in the slightest, nor is He somehow an extra component to be fitted onto the already established idea of Deity. Jesus was and is the ultimate expression of who God is...and He is completely Divine Himself. But Jesus gave up His “rights” and died for His own rebellious creatures (compare Philippians 2:1-4). Our culture is often obsessed with rights and entitlements, and yet the Master of Heaven and Earth teaches us to be truly great...by serving others. If we want to be like God/our Creator (godly), then we need to look at Jesus and pattern our mindset and lifestyle accordingly. Oh, and if we will empty ourselves and humble ourselves, then God will exalt us in the proper/coming time. This is a poem about the greatness of the Messiah, and about the future for those who possess His mind.

For His infinite worth,

Gantt